Status: Least Concern
Range & Habitat
Degus are generally considered endemic to west central Chile, where it inhabits the lower slopes of the Andes.
Degus superficially resembles a gerbil, but are much larger. The fur is yellow-brown on the back and head, and the under parts and feet are cream colored. There is a pale band around the eye and, in some individuals, the neck. The tail is moderately long and conspicuously tufted. The ears are large and darkly pigmented. The fifth digit is reduced, and on the forefeet it has a nail instead of a claw. The cheek teeth are hypsodont and their biting surfaces resemble a figure of eight. Sexes are difficult to distinguish, but males tend to be about ten percent larger than females. Pups are born furred and able to see, and begin exploring within hours of birth.
In the wild Degus tend to breed once per year. The breeding season usually begins in late May (autumn in Chile), and the young are conceived in late winter to early spring (September to October). In wet years, Degus may produce second litters. The gestation period is 90 days, and litter size is typically four to six pups.
In the Wild: they feed on the leaves, bark, and seeds of shrubs and forbs. In The Zoo: Chinchilla pellets combined with a seed mixture.
Degus are social and tend to live in groups of one to two males and two to five related females. Females participate in rearing on another's young. Groups maintain territories throughout much of the year. They are semi-fossorial, digging extensive communal burrow systems.
IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. 2009, December. Hejna, M. and P. Myers. 2006. "Octodon degus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 07, 2009.